Sunday, May 21, 2006

Twin Atlas Interview

Sean Byrne and Lucas Zaleski began playing together in the 90's, and their backgrounds includes such independent stalwarts as Mazarin, Lenola, Matt Pond PA, and Audible. Together, they are known as Twin Atlas, a duo based in both Philadelphia, PA, and New York City. Their most recent release is entitled Sun Township, but, as you will find out, they have new material in the can.

One thing is for certain, Byrne and Zaleski get along like two brothers. Byrne conjures a picture that might explain the bond. "Maybe we could try writing & recording on stage. I’m sure that’d go over real well. People could pay to come watch me and Luke drinking beer and bickering and eating snacks and recording tunes." I'm there.

As you will read, getting on each other's nerves is part of what makes this duo who they are. Enjoy the conversation.

I understand that you are working on a new release. Any details you'd like to share?

SB: It's going to be a collection of songs from the same era that produced our last album (Sun Township). We purposely kept Sun Township brief, but the recording sessions from that era yielded the usual high number of songs. I feel like a lot of them are worthy of release, so I’ll be revisiting the recordings this summer and finishing things up on them. It’ll be called ‘Magic Car Wash,’ (note: Luke hates the title, like most titles I come up with) but ,at this point, I don’t know if it will be a ‘proper’ CD release or something more low-profile like just for download or a website-only CDR exclusive thing. I’m looking forward to working on it though.

Tell me how you two became The Twin Atlas.

LZ: Sean is talented. Luke is friends with Sean.

SB: We met in college back in the early 90’s. We both learned guitar around the same time from the same mutual friend.

When you bring people from different bands together, you, in my opinion, generally want to get away from the sounds created in your previous bands. But what drives your "new" sound? Is it something that happens or is it manufactured?

SB: I do think that, early on, I was definitely doing quieter & folkier stuff in reaction to some of the louder rock bands I had drummed with, but over time I actually now hear so much influence from those bands (Lenola, Mazarin) in Twin Atlas music just on a mellower level. In regards to any “new” sound, I just think the more recent songs have a higher fidelity and are a bit more developed than earlier songs that were just quick sketches.

LZ: We're pretty good at “manufacturing” creativity in the sense that we know that if we get together, add coffee, beer and guitars, we'll probably get something to work with. The approach stays the same, but we've never consciously tried to do anything. It's about leaving ourselves open to the possibility that something might happen. If that something is upbeat or mid-tempo, so be it. So long as it works.

With regards to the Sun Township release, what are you most proud of?

SB: It’s consistency of mood. I think there is a common thread to the album’s “feel” from start to end, which we never had on earlier releases so much.

Thirty minutes isn't a long record. Was that a conscious decision?

LZ: For this release I think Sean had a certain discipline about keeping the record consistent and very concise, maybe as a reaction to some of our longer, earlier records.

SB: For once, I actually agree with something Lucas has said.

Your bio calls the music on Sun Township "atmospheric." Define atmospheric.

SB: Ummm, I guess I’d rate atmosphere on how well the music conjures up a visual scene in your mind. If the music can somehow give the listener the feeling of a certain time of day, maybe during a particular time of the year, if the music stirs up a scenery or environment in your mind, I guess that’s atmospheric. It’s the exact opposite of something heavy-handed lyrically or when a song is about a person or politics. Effective atmosphere in music is much more subtle.

My guess is that you are not one for touring. Why?

LZ: Sean has a baby. And is one.

SB: Lucas also has a lovely daughter, and he is also really, really lame. That being said, the logistics are tough as we don’t live too close. But the true reason is that the essence of what we do is in the creative and recording process, not the reproduction of the songs live. We play a proper live show every once in a while and I’m usually left feeling mildly discouraged, or, at best, marginally satisfied. It's just not what the Twin Atlas is about.

I'm not sure which of you moved, but how is the new house coming along?

LZ: Sean moved into his retirement Mecca a few months back. He has since lost all his teeth, and his will to live.

SB: It's true, at least the part about the teeth.

For more on The Twin Atlas, go to


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